Determination of step rate thresholds corresponding to physical activity intensity classifications in adults

J Phys Act Health. 2011 Jan;8(1):45-51. doi: 10.1123/jpah.8.1.45.


Background: Current recommendations call for adults to be physically active at moderate and/or vigorous intensities. Given the popularity of walking and running, the use of step rates may provide a practical and inexpensive means to evaluate ambulatory intensity. Thus, the purpose of this study was to identify step rate thresholds that correspond to various intensity classifications.

Methods: Oxygen consumption was measured at rest and during 10 minute treadmill walking and running trials at 6 standardized speeds (54, 80, 107, 134, 161, and 188 m·min⁻¹) in 9 men and 10 women (28.8 ± 6.8 yrs). Two observers counted the participants' steps at each treadmill speed. Linear and nonlinear regression analyses were used to develop prediction equations to ascertain step rate thresholds at various intensities.

Results: Nonlinear regression analysis of the metabolic cost versus step rates across all treadmill speeds yielded the highest R² values for men (R² = .91) and women (R² = .79). For men, the nonlinear analysis yielded 94 and 125 step·min⁻¹ for moderate and vigorous intensities, respectively. For women, 99 and 135 step·min⁻¹ corresponded with moderate and vigorous intensities, respectively.

Conclusions: Promoting a step rate of 100 step·min⁻¹ may serve as a practical public health recommendation to exercise at moderate intensity.

MeSH terms

  • Accelerometry
  • Adult
  • Basal Metabolism / physiology*
  • Body Composition
  • Body Mass Index
  • Calorimetry, Indirect / methods
  • Exercise Tolerance
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Equivalent / physiology
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Regression Analysis
  • Running / physiology*
  • Walking / physiology*